Ankle joints and feet are the link between your body and the ground. If the ankle twists as the foot hits the ground, particularly during a fall, this may cause a sprain. Physiotherapists provide advice and treatment to speed up healing and restore full performance.
What is an ankle sprain?
The ankle joint is made up of four bones. The shape of each bone helps to make the joint stable. Stability around the joint is increased by the ligaments, which are bands of strong connective tissue that prevent unwanted movement.
When the ankle twists, the ligaments usually prevent the joint from moving too much. An ankle sprain occurs when one of the supporting ligaments is stretched too far too quickly, causing the ligament fibres to tear and bleed into the surrounding tissues. The number of fibres torn determines the severity of the injury and can be assessed by your physiotherapist to give you some idea of how long it will take to heal and when you can commence sport again.
How can Physiotherapists help?
Apart from examining the ankle to determine the extent of the injury, your physio can help to reduce swelling and pain in the early stages, making it easier to walk after 2 or 3 days. To help you return to normal activity quickly, we can show you how to tape your ankle and give you exercises to improve strength and control. If necessary, we can order an X-ray, or suggest that you see a doctor. The number of treatments required depends of the severity of the injury and can be estimated by us but no two injuries are ever the same. A minor ankle sprain may need between one to four treatments.
How soon can I return to running?
This will depend on how badly you have damaged the ankle ligament. Returning to work or sport too early can delay healing and prolong recovery.
- Bracing and taping may allow early return to activity, but normal ankle ligament strength and muscle control will take longer to return than the time it takes for pain and swelling to subside.
- Your physiotherapist can help you to plan ways to maintain fitness while your ankle is healing.
Can ankle sprains be prevented?
- Warm up before you exercise. Warm down at the end.
- Wear well-fitting shoes, boots or ankle braces that give good ankle support
- Avoid activities on slippery, wet or uneven surfaces, or in areas of poor light.
- Maintain good general fitness.